There’s a famous quote from the rum-loving Ernest Hemingway that goes something like “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquirí in El Floridita.” Well, those two places still exist, but due to Hemingway’s affection for them, they’ve now become overpriced, crowded and generally unpleasant state-run bars, where you’ll mostly find a tourists who just got off cruise ships (in the case of La Bodeguita) and old foreign men with their lovely “Cuban girlfriends” (in the case of El Floridita).
Luckily, there are now plenty of other places to get good food and drinks in Havana, and two of my favorites (yes, I’m the Hemingway stand-in in this one) are El Dandy and El Chanchullero.
Both are situated on Parque Cristo, an attraction in its own right for the amazing Church of Santo Cristo and the wifi connection that attracts seemingly half of Old Havana on most days. El Dandy is the more picturesque of the two — it has great tile floors, a busy, packed interior with lots of great photos on the walls (taken by one of the owners) and other Cuban nicknacks, and both bar and sit down areas where you can order from a small but delicious selection of food items for breakfast lunch or dinner. Everything I’ve had there (including the bruschetta) has been delicious and well priced (and I’ve been there a lot…).
El Chanchullero is slightly older — it was one of the first private businesses to open up on the square a few years ago and became well known for it’s “Hemingway never came here” sign. It’s a tapas place with a tiny footprint and three floors, so it’s super cozy and decorated with posters that are also sold next door as part of a side business they run. It doesn’t look as nice from the outside, but trust me, it’s good, and my Cuban friend Javier swears by there mojitos. According to him (a reeeaaal local!), they are the best mojitos he’s had, and the strongest!
Pro tip: Due to it’s size, there is often a line to get into El Chanchullero — one way that I’ve found to pass the time is to go into the doorway just to the right of El Chanchullero’s entrance, go down the hall to the first door on the right, and buy a beer from the people who live there. They sell beer right out of their kitchen fridge — cold, inexpensive, and definitely Supporting the Cuban People!
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